Our Eyes Scan Potential Friends and Lovers Differently

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Omri Gillath PhD
Department of Psychology
University of Kansas
Angela Bahns, PhD
Wellesley College

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: We tracked the eye movements of 105 heterosexual participants while they viewed photos of strangers and answered questions about their interest in either becoming friends with or dating the person.

We found that in looking at others, people scan the body differently depending on whether a person is judged as a potential friend or a potential romantic partner. Heterosexual men and women looked at the head or chest of an opposite-sex person longer and more often when evaluating dating potential compared to friendship potential.

In contrast, both men and women looked at the legs or feet more for friendship judgments than for dating judgments (although overall legs and feet were looked at less than other body regions).

MedicalResearch.com: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Response: Our study suggests that beauty is not simply in the eye of the beholder but in his/her relational goals.

People scan others for cues differently, depending on what they’re seeking regarding the role others may play in their lives.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: Future research should take into account the role of social context in judging relationship potential. What people look for in a prospective relationship partner depends on their relational goals.

MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Response: Our study focused on heterosexual college students in an American context. Future studies should also examine whether looking patterns are different in different cultural contexts, with different age groups, or for different sexual orientations.

MedicalResearch.com: Thank you for your contribution to the MedicalResearch.com community.


Arch Sex Behav. 2017 Jul 6. doi: 10.1007/s10508-017-1022-5. [Epub ahead of print]
Eye Movements When Looking at Potential Friends and Romantic Partners.
Gillath O1, Bahns AJ2, Burghart HA3.sexu

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Last Updated on July 27, 2017 by Marie Benz MD FAAD